In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
I. LET US FIRST EXPLAIN WHAT WE MEAN BY THE END OF GOD IN CREATION. It will be seen at once that an ultimate end, or that for which all other ends in the series exist, and from which they derive their importance, is in the mind of the agent his chief end. It is contended by some that the same series of subordinate ends may have more than one ultimate end, of which one may be chief, and the others inferior ends. This was the opinion of Edwards. He says: "Two different ends may be both ultimate ends, and yet not be chief ends. They may be both valued for their own sake, and both sought in the same work or acts, and yet one valued more highly and sought more than another. Thus a man may go a journey to obtain two different benefits or enjoyments, both which may be agreeable to him in themselves considered, and so both may be what he values on their own account, and seeks for their own sake; and yet one may be much more agreeable than the other; and so be what he sets his heart chiefly upon, and seeks most after in his going a journey. Thus a man may go a journey partly to obtain the possession and enjoyment of a bride that is very dear to him, and partly to gratify his curiosity in looking in a telescope, or some new invented and extraordinary optic glass. Both may be ends that he seeks in his journey, and the one not properly subordinate, or in order to another. One may not depend on another, and therefore both may be ultimate ends; but yet the obtaining his beloved bride may be his chief end, and the benefit of the optic glass his inferior end. The former may be what he sets his heart most upon, and so be properly the chief end of his journey." Our view differs somewhat from that of Edwards upon this point. As these different objects are to be obtained by the same course of action, or by the same series of subordinate ends, we believe it would be speaking more correctly to represent them as forming one compound ultimate end, rather than two distinct ultimate ends. Again: The ends or purposes of intelligent beings are divided into subjective and objective ends. The subjective end has reference to the feelings and desires of the agent or being, which are to be gratified by the selection and accomplishment of the objective end. It consists in the gratification of these feelings and desires. The objective end is the thing to be done or brought to pass, and to the accomplishment of which the agent is prompted by these feelings, affections, or desires. It is not the subjective end of God in creating the universe that we seek. We know this must have been based in the perfections of His character; it must have been for the gratification of His infinite benevolence, His boundless love, that He adopted and spake into being the present system of things. But there must be some objective end toward which He is impelled by His benevolence and love, and for the accomplishment of which the present system was caused to exist. It is this objective end that we are endeavouring to ascertain.
II. WE PROCEED TO POINT OUT WHAT WE CONSIDER GOD'S END IN CREATION TO HAVE BEEN. And here we premise that whatever this end was, it was something in the order of time future; that is, something yet to be obtained or accomplished. It would be absurd to suppose a being to adopt and carry out a plan to obtain a good, or to accomplish an end which was already obtained or accomplished. We are now prepared for the general statement that, according to our view, the end of God in creation is not to be found in Himself — that God is not His own end. The differences between Edwards and ourself upon this point may be traced mainly to a distinction which he has omitted to make, but which we deem of great importance. We mean the distinction which exists between the display of the attributes and perfections of God, and the effect produced by that display upon the mind of the beholder. These attributes and perfections belong to God; their display is the act of God; but the impression made upon the mind of another, by this display, forms no part of God; it is not the act of God, but the result of that act; it is an effect which was not produced, nor does it exist in the mind of God, but which was produced and exists in the mind of the creature. The importance of this distinction will be made apparent hereafter. That God could not have been His own end in creation, we argue from the infinite fulness of His nature. We can conceive of but one way in which a being can become his own objective end in anything he does, and that is by supposing that he is destitute of something of which he feels the needs, and consequently desires for himself. To illustrate: Take the scholar who pursues with diligence his studies; he may do this because he delights in knowledge, and his ultimate objective end may be an increase of knowledge; or he may do it because knowledge will render him more worthy of esteem. In either case, the ultimate end is to be found in himself, and in both the idea of defect on the part of the agent is prominent. Were his knowledge already perfect, there would be no need that he should study to increase it. Now until some defect is found to exist in God — until it can be shown that He does not possess, and has not from eternity possessed, infinite fulness; that there is in His case some personal want unsupplied, it is impossible to show that God is His own end in creation. But it may be well to dwell more at large upon this part of the subject.
1. God's own happiness could not be His ultimate end in creation. It will be borne in mind, that the ultimate end is something in the future, something yet to be accomplished. God's happiness can be made His end in creation in only two ways — by increasing it, or by continuing it, But this happiness can never be increased, for it is already perfect in kind, and infinite in degree. And the only way in which the continuance of this happiness can be made God's end in creation is by supposing it necessary order to the continued gratification of His benevolent feelings. While the feelings of God's heart are fully gratified He must be happy; and we admit that His failing to accomplish any purpose, and thus failing to gratify these feelings, would disappoint and render Him unhappy. So that the continued gratification of these feelings, and thus the continuance of His happiness, was undoubtedly an end of God in creation; but, as we have seen, this was His subjective, and not His objective end. We perceive, then, that God's happiness, either in its increase or continuance, is not the end for which we seek.
2. God's attributes, natural or moral, could not have been His end in creation. The only ways in which we can conceive the attributes of God to be His end in creation, are to increase them, to exercise them, or to display them. The first could not have been His end, for the increase of attributes already infinite is impossible. It will be seen that Edwards makes the exercise of God's infinite attributes a thing desirable in itself, and one of His ends in creation. If we understand him, he teaches that God exerted His infinite power and wisdom in creation for the sake of exerting them; their exercise was in itself excellent, and one ultimate object or end which Deity had in view in exerting them, was that they might be exerted. That is, the exercise itself, and the end of that exercise, are the same thing. To show the absurdity of this position, we remark —
(1) The moral attributes of God were not exercised at all in the work of creation. Benevolence cannot create, nor justice, nor mercy. The only attributes which were, or could have been exerted by God in the work of creation, are His infinite wisdom to contrive, and His eternal power to execute. We admit that the gratification of the benevolent feelings of God's heart led Him to exercise these natural attributes in one direction rather than another; but the gratification of these feelings, as has been already shown, is the subjective end of God in creation. But it may be asked, Did not the work of creation furnish an occasion for the exercise of God's moral attributes, viz., His benevolence, justice, and mercy? Certainly it did. But that which is a mere incident of creation cannot be its end.
(2) To suppose God to exercise His natural attributes or powers, simply for the sake of exercising them, or that this forms any part of His ultimate end in exercising them, is a supposition entirely unworthy of Deity. We deny that there is anything excellent in itself in the exercise of natural powers, simply for the sake of exercising them: and this denial holds good whether these powers are finite or infinite; whether they belong to the creature or to the Creator. The truth is, that all the excellence which attaches to the exercise of natural powers, depends upon and is borrowed from, their designed results. The exercise of God's wisdom and power in the work of creation is excellent, because the designed result is excellent, and for no other reason. It is evident, then, that the mere exercise of God's attributes, whether natural or moral, forms no part of His ultimate end in creation. Nor can the mere display of His attributes form any part of God's end in creation. Now the position we take is, that such a display as this, considered separately from any effect to be produced upon mind by it, formed no part of God's end in creation. We are led to this conclusion, because such a display, simply in the light of a display, and aside from the effect it produces upon intelligent mind, is entirely valueless. God understood and delighted in His own attributes just as perfectly before this display as afterward, and, aside from its effect upon other minds, it must be made in vain; which is unworthy of the Great Supreme. What would be thought of an author who should write and publish a book simply to display the powers of his mind, without any idea of having it read to produce an effect upon other minds? Let us recapitulate, and see to what point we have arrived. We started with the proposition, that God was not His own end in creation; or that God's end in creation cannot be found in Himself. We have shown that God's happiness was not His end; that His attributes, natural and moral, whether we consider their increase, their exercise, or their display, were not, and could not have been His end. We have shown that His end, could not consist in any good which He expected to receive, or was capable of receiving from His creatures, owing to impressions made upon their minds by the display of His attributes in the work of creation. We know of no other way in which God can be His own end in creation. And if there is no other way, then the end which we seek is not to be found in God, and we must look for it in some other direction. To this view it is objected by Edwards, that the supposition that God's end is out of Himself militates against His entire and absolute independence. "We must," says he, "conceive of the efficient as depending on His ultimate end. He depends on this end in His desires, aims, actions, and pursuits; so that He fails in all His desires, actions, and pursuits, if He fails of His end. Now if God Himself be His last end, then in His dependence on His end, He depends on nothing but Himself. If all things be of Him, and to Him, and He the first and last, this shows Him to be all in all: He is all to Himself. He goes not out of Himself for what He seeks; but His desires and pursuits, as they originate from, so they terminate in Himself; and He is dependent on none but Himself in the beginning or end of any of His exercises or operations. But if not Himself, but the creature, be His last end, then, as He depends on His last end, He is in some sort dependent on the creature." The fallacy of the position assumed in this objection lies in the supposition that the relation which subsists between the happiness of a being and the accomplishment of his ends has to do with his independence. The question of independence is based upon entirely a different principle, viz., that of the power or ability of the being. If he possesses in himself the power to accomplish his ends, without aid from any other source, then, as far as they are concerned, he is entirely independent; and this is equally true, whether these ends are within or without himself. If a being had no power, or not power sufficient to accomplish his ends, were they all within himself, he would still be dependent: on the other hand, if he has within himself absolute power to accomplish all his ends, although these ends are out of himself, he is still independent. The question of independence has nothing to do with the position of these ends; but it has everything to do with the ability of the agent to execute them. So the question of God's independence does not depend upon the position of His ends, but upon His perfect ability to accomplish them, whatever they are, and wherever they may be located. Having shown that God's end in creation is not in Himself — and having answered the objection of Edwards to this position, the question returns, Where and what is this end? We shall now attempt to answer this question by the following train of reasoning: —
1. The attributes of God are most wonderfully displayed in the work of creation. His power and wisdom are everywhere conspicuous. So, likewise, the moral excellencies of His character are written in sunbeams upon the works of His hand: and to minds not darkened by sin, these excellencies stand out in bold relief. Now a display of this character must produce a powerful effect upon intelligent mind; and upon the supposition that the mind is perfectly formed and rightly attuned, the effect must be blessed indeed. The result to which we come, then, is, that the display of the Divine perfections would produce an effect upon mind, perfectly organized and undisturbed by adverse influences, which would cause the recipient to admire and love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, and strength; and this effect would be limited only by his capacity.
2. There is another display or exhibition secured by, or consequent upon, the work of creation, viz., that of the attributes, both natural and moral, of the creatures themselves.
3. There is still another effect secured by the work of creation, and the display consequent upon, it, viz., that produced "upon a being by the display of his own powers, attributes, or qualities. These he becomes acquainted with by consciousness, and by a careful observation of their workings in various directions. The impression which these attributes of self must make upon the mind of self, provided this mind is perfect in its organization, and undisturbed by adverse influences, will be in exact proportion to the worth of self in the scale of being. This is self-love as distinguished from selfishness; which is self-love overleaping its boundaries, or overflowing its banks. We have arrived, then, at the following result, viz., that the effect which the display of character consequent upon the work of creation is calculated to produce upon perfect mind, is admiration of love toward, and delight in God, to the full extent of the powers of the creature, and love to self, and all creature intelligences, measured by their worth in the scale of being. In other words, it is entire conformity to the moral law, which consists in loving God with all the soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourself. This is the result of the action of perfect mind in the direction of perfection itself, it is easy to perceive that perfect bliss, happiness, or delight midst inhere in, or constitute a part of such action — and this, not merely in the sense of art effect, but that it must be woven into its very texture, so as to form a part of its web and woof. This effect is denominated holiness; and as it is produced in the mind of the creature, and not in the mind of God (who was perfectly and infinitely holy before creation began), we call it creature holiness, i.e., holiness belonging to the creature; and the happiness which inheres therein and forms a part of it is, for the same reason, creature happiness. The production of this effect upon the minds of intelligent creatures, we believe to have been God's end in creation — that end without which the universe would not have existed. This position thrown into the form of a proposition would run thus: God's last end in creation was to secure the greatest possible amount of creature holiness, and of that happiness which inheres in and forms a part of such holiness. Or thus: The ultimate, objective end for which God created the universe, was the production of the greatest possible amount of creature holiness and happiness. We use the term creature holiness and happiness in opposition to the position of Edwards, that this holiness and happiness are emanations from God in such a sense, that they are communicated to the creature from His fulness; so that, in fact, they are God's holiness and happiness diffusing themselves among the creatures of His empire. He holds that communication of holiness and happiness formed a part of God's last end, or one of His ultimate ends, in creation. But then, to carry out his theory, which makes God His own end, he calls this holiness and happiness an emanation from Deity Himself, like a fountain overflowing its banks, or sending forth its waters in streams. The idea that creation is an emanation from God is not strictly true. It is a production of God, and a production of something out of nothing, not an emanation from Him. We can see how the benevolence of God could lead Him to purpose from all eternity to create the universe at a certain time, — in which case, the universe would not exist until that time arrived. But we cannot see how an original tendency can exist in God, for something to flow out of Himself, as water streams from a fountain, unless the flowing out co-exists with the tendency; and if so, then the universe has co-existed with God, that is, it has existed from eternity. The phraseology used by Edwards would go to show that the universe is a part of God; and that the holiness of the creature is simply God's holiness communicated to the creature. He says: "The disposition to communicate Himself, or diffuse His own fulness, which we must conceive of as being originally in God as a perfection of His nature, was what moved Him to create the world."..."But the diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence was rather a communicative disposition in general, or a disposition in the fulness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself." If these statements are correct, then the creation must be a part of the fulness of God. If the act of creating was the flowing out and the diffusion of the Divinity itself, then the result must have been a part of that divinity; or, in other words, the universe must be a part of God. Again, in speaking of the knowledge, holiness, and joy of the creature, he says: "These things are but the emanations of God's own knowledge, holiness, and joy." So that the universe is not only a part of God, but the very attributes of His intelligent creatures, their perfections, their holiness and happiness, are only communications of the perfections, the holiness and happiness of God: they are God's perfections, God's holiness and happiness, communicated by Him to the creature. We believe that the universe, instead of being an emanation from Deity, is the work of His hand; instead of being the overflowing of His fulness, it is a creation of His omnipotence — a causing something to exist out of nothing; and the holiness and happiness of creatures, instead of being the holiness and happiness of God communicated to them, consists in their conformity to the rule of right, and that delight which inheres in and is consequent upon such conformity. The production of these, or the securing them to the greatest possible extent, we hold to be God's last end in creation. We repeat, then, that the ultimate objective end of God in creating the universe was, to secure the greatest possible amount of creature holiness and happiness. Our reasons for this opinion are as follows:
1. As we have seen, God's ultimate end must be something desirable in itself, and not desired merely as a means to an end. The holiness of God is the most excellent thing in the universe; and next to it, is the holiness of His creatures. God's end in creation could not have been to promote the former, for it was perfect from eternity. It must, therefore, have been to promote the latter, which is so excellent in itself, and so much to be prized for its results, that it is entirely worthy to be the ultimate end of Jehovah. But it may be asked, May not God's end in creation have been to display His own holiness, on account of the delight He takes in having that holiness praised, loved, and adored? No doubt God delights to have the perfections of His character praised, loved, and adored; but, is this delight selfish, or is it benevolent? If selfish, then it is sin. If benevolent, then it is a delight in holiness. God delights to be praised, loved, and adored, because this praise, love, and adoration, form the principal ingredient in holiness; and as it is the creature who praises, loves, and adores, so that this effect is produced in the mind and heart of the creature, we call it creature holiness.
2. We argue that creature holiness is the end of God in creation, from the fact that for God to promote His own glory, or to promote such a state of mind in the creature as will lead the creature to glorify Him, is the same thing as to promote holiness in the creature. The Scriptures teach that God does what He does for His own name's sake, or, which is the same thing, for His glory's sake; and we are commanded, "whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, to do all to the glory of God." If, therefore, "God's glory," and "God's being glorified," as they are set forth in the Scriptures, differ from creature holiness, then His holiness is not the end of God in creation; but if they can be shown to be the same thing, then is it His last great end in creating the universe. God's glory consists either in that which constitutes His intrinsic glory, or in that in which He delights and glories, as something which He desires and seeks to accomplish above everything else; or in that state of mind in others, which leads them to praise and glorify Him. That God's intrinsic glory was not, and could not have been His end in creation, is evident from the fact that it was and is the same from eternity, before creation existed; it has never been in any sense changed or altered, nor is it possible that such change should take place: and it is perfectly evident that that which existed before an event, and is not in the least changed by the event, could not have been the end or object of that event. Again: If we mean, by God's glory, that in which He delights and glories, as something which He desires and seeks to accomplish above everything else; then, as we contend, this something is holiness: and as it cannot be His own holiness (for He cannot seek to accomplish what is already accomplished), it must be creature holiness. That holiness is what God delights in above everything else, and desires to promote, is evident from the following considerations:(1) It is the most excellent or desirable thing in the universe, and, therefore, God must delight in it supremely; it must be that in which He glories. This we have already illustrated.
(2) The moral law contains the foundation and essence of true holiness; and, if this law is (as it is universally admitted to be) a transcript of God, then does He delight supremely in holiness.
(3) The rewards and penalties which God has attached to His law, and the development which He has made of his feelings in the death of Christ, and the work of the Spirit, all go to show that He has set His heart supremely upon holiness, that He delights and glories in it, and seeks, above everything else, to promote it.
(4) The Scriptures teach that, without holiness, it is impossible to please God; and that faith is peculiarly pleasing in His sight, because of its relation to holiness; it appropriates the righteousness of Christ; it purifies the heart, and produces good works.
(5) It must be evident to every student of the Bible, and close observer of the providences of God, as they are developed in the history of the Church, that the whole economy of grace has for its object the production and conservation of sanctification or holiness; and that, when this is accomplished, the gracious economy will he exchanged for one purely legal.
(6) The transcendent glory of heaven consists in its holiness — nothing unclean or impure shall be admitted into it. These considerations go to show that God delights supremely in holiness, and that its production to the greatest possible extent is the thing upon which He has supremely set His heart. Again: If we mean by God's glory, the impression made upon the minds of others, which leads them to praise and glorify Him, then vie say, This impression is holiness, and as it is made in the minds of creatures, it is creature holiness. When we love the Lord our God with all our soul, mind, and strength, we glorify Him for what He is in Himself; and when we love His creatures, according to their worth in the scale of being, we glorify Him through His creatures, as the servants of His household, and the subjects of His empire. If we are holy, we shall glorify God; and if we glorify God, we shall be holy. The one cannot exist without the other; and they resolve themselves into the same thing. This view perfectly accords with the Scriptures. As our limits forbid an extended examination, we will select from those passages quoted by Edwards, to prove that God is His own end in creation. The first class are those which speak of God as the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:11). These passages simply teach the eternity and absolute sovereignty of God. They have nothing to do with His end in creation; and the wonder is that a divine like Edwards should have quoted them for such a purpose. A second class of passages are those which declare everything to have been created for God (Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 2:10). These texts teach that God is the Creator and Proprietor of all things — that they were made by Him, and for His use; but they do not decide what use God intends to make of them, nor what end He means to accomplish by them. They have no sort of bearing upon the question under discussion. A third class are those passages which speak of God's glory as the end of all things. They may be arranged under three heads.
1. Those passages which speak of what God does as being done for His name's sake, or for His own glory (Isaiah 43:6, 7; Isaiah 60:21; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psalm 106:8). These texts teach that God does what He does, to lead His subjects to praise and glorify Him, and to magnify His great and holy name; in other words, to love Him with all their soul, mind, and strength: and what is that but creature holiness?
2. Those passages which enjoin it upon the creature to do what he does to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. Those passages which speak of the glory of God as the result of certain acts of the creature (Philippians 1:11; John 15:8). But how is it that, "being filled with the fruits of righteousness," and "bearing much fruit," glorifies God? It does this in two ways: These fruits are holiness embodied in the life, and they present the transcendent excellence of God's ultimate end in creation. They produce their effect upon other minds, and lead them to praise and glorify God, and thus promote holiness in them. To love and adore God with all the heart, is to glorify God; and to love and adore God with all the heart, is holiness in exercise: so that, in this sense, God's glory and the exercise of holy affections are the same thing. And to lead others to love and adore God with all the heart, is to lead them to glorify God; and to lead others to love and adore God with all the heart, is to lead them to exercise holy affections: so that to promote the glory of God in others, and to promote holiness in them, is the same thing. The end of God in creation, then, as we think we have shown, is not in Himself, but consists in the promotion of creature holiness, and that happiness which may appropriately be called the happiness of holiness.
(W. C. Wisner.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.